One challenge that every marketer faces is crafting a message that gets customers to stop what they’re doing and pay attention to the message long enough to see whether or not there’s a real match between their needs and what the company is selling. I found this cartoon on CartoonStock.com that sums it up.
It’s clear to anyone looking at the cartoon that the salesman has a tool that could really help the current situation — but the poor general about to become a footnote in history isn’t paying enough attention to recognize that. So if you’ve done your target audience segmentation, your product research, and your message testing to the point that you’re sure that you have the perfect message for your prospective customer, how do you get them to pay attention to it?
One thing’s for sure: interrupting them in the middle of a battle isn’t the best way to get their attention, even if you are bringing a Gatling gun to a bow and arrow fight.
Back when I finished school, all marketing was outbound, designed to interrupt prospective customers. The art and science of in-bound marketing didn’t emerge until the late 1990’s, when the availability of reliable Internet search engines made it easy for consumers to search for information about products and services when they wanted information — rather than paying attention to intrusive marketing messages.
Recently, I helped my boss put together a presentation for a conference on timing email, social media, and blog posts for the highest impact and best results. A copy of that presentation is available for download here.
Right now, I’m working on a white paper that expands the ideas we discussed in that presentation. I’ve been talking to several experts on the subject, and I’m planning to have the white paper finished within the next couple of weeks. I’ll post a link to that when it’s ready.
Several things are becoming clearer to me the deeper I dive into this subject, however.
- Social media is a changing, living, growing communications channel.
- Nothing in this area is carved in stone – and there are no hard and fast rules on timing.
- Each marketer needs to test and evaluate the best times for THEIR audience, and THEIR objectives
I had that brought home to me a couple of weeks ago at work. We’d just published the presentation, and I was (justifiably, I think) proud of the hours and days of research that had cone into creating it. So I decided to put some of the data to work in an email campaign I was sending — without testing it for my specific audience.
The tracking on my email campaigns had shown a consistent open and click-through rate for several months, using an opt-in list of marketing managers and executives at target companies in the industries my company focuses on serving. I’d been sending the campaigns fairly consistently at the same time of day, and always on a weekday.
Based on research that showed that people in most industries read commercial email early in the morning or later in the evening, and that click-through rates went up on Saturday and Sunday, I decided to try sending a campaign overnight on Friday night.
To put it bluntly, the results were disastrous. My click-through rates plummeted to a fraction of their usual rates. When I sent the same message again, with the same subject line, to the same list, on a Tuesday morning, the rates climbed back to their normal levels.
Does that mean that the research was flawed? No. It means that, just like it says in the presentation, testing the data against a specific target audience and message is mandatory. I sent a campaign for a children’s charity I volunteer for to a list with a very high overlap with the target list I used at work, and sent that message overnight on Friday night — and the results were about 4X better than a similar campaign to the same list sent several months earlier during the work week.
What do my results mean? That people are more interested in reading email about children on a Saturday morning than catching up on the latest regulatory compliance news, I think. But the truth is that I won’t know until I do more testing.
I’m still working on the issue of timing marketing messages for best results, and I somehow suspect that I’ll be working on it every day for the remainder of my career. I’ll bet you will, too.
Why? Because it keeps changing, and we have to keep changing with it if we don’t want to wind up like the guy in the cartoon at the top of this blog post: with the solution to a serious problem literally within arm’s reach, but completely hidden from us because we’re not paying attention.